Boston Herald


- By Gayla Cawley gcawley@bostonhera­

Boston’s mayor and school superinten­dent are proposing that one of the city’s largest high schools move into the vacant West Roxbury Education Complex, which officials closed four years ago for safety reasons.

The John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematic­s and Science would move from the Roxbury campus it has shared for nearly four decades with Madison Park Technical Vocational High School to the West Roxbury site, allowing for an expansion of both schools, Mayor Michelle Wu said.

The plan, which requires approval from the Boston School Committee, would create a “state-of-the-art” STEM facility for grades 7-12 at the new O’Bryant campus. It would expand vocational offerings at Madison Park and allow seventhand eighth-grade students to study there as well.

“The proposals that we’re putting out, they’re very big,” Wu said. “We’re talking about generation­al change at a scale that we haven’t seen in quite some time in our district. That can feel daunting.”

These changes, Wu said, are driven, in part, from the feedback of students and staff at O’Bryant and Madison Park, who said the space constraint­s have, “in many ways, held the schools back.”

“We have an opportunit­y here to make a transforma­tive investment in our students and families, the future of our city,” Wu said.

Superinten­dent of Schools Mary Skipper said there has often been a tendency to “settle for incrementa­l change in education,” which does not make much of a difference for students.

“I think our school system is indicative of that over the long haul,” Skipper said. “I think of the generation­s of students that settled. They settled and we don’t want our students to settle. We want them to thrive.”

The move would allow O’Bryant, one of the city’s three exam schools, to increase its enrollment by roughly 400 students, from 1,600 to 2,000, and it would give the school its own sports facilities and lab space, Wu said.

Today, O’Bryant admits half as many seventh-graders as ninth-graders due to space constraint­s, which prevents older students from acclimatin­g to their new school environmen­t, the mayor said.

The plan also calls for increasing the rigor of STEM education at O’Bryant.

City Councilor-at-Large Erin Murphy, however, criticized the plan, saying that the O’Bryant — which was already displaced once before, by Boston Latin Academy — was being used as “pawn” in a “larger master scheme.”

“Boston and BPS have plenty of buildings and sites to choose from that would not radically disrupt the O’Bryant’s longstandi­ng connection­s to the neighborho­ods, families and businesses that make it thrive,” Murphy said in a Tuesday statement.

Madison Park, the city’s only vocational school, could, in turn, take over the entire campus it now shares with O’Bryant. It would expand to include the seventh and eighth grade, more than doubling today’s enrollment of roughly 1,000, to accommodat­e 2,200 students, Wu said.

This would allow for more “public-facing interactio­n” and hands-on experience for students, like what’s seen at other technical schools across the state, the mayor said. Expanded vocational offerings would include a new aviation technology pathway through a partnershi­p with JetBlue.

“This campus would become a full-service, around-the-clock resource for Roxbury and for the larger city, for young people and adult learners alike to have a space that they need right here on campus,” Wu said. “That means adult education and workforce training on-site.”

While the West Roxbury Education Complex was closed in 2019 due to its poor condition, per a School Committee vote, Wu and Skipper said the facility won’t need to be torn down and rebuilt prior to the move.

It will, however, need a complete gut renovation, “down to the studs,” to accommodat­e the influx of new students, officials said. This approach was deemed most feasible through a study completed on the building, Wu said.

The mayor said $18 million has been proposed in the city’s capital budget for project design, which will help to determine how much it will cost to renovate the West Roxbury facility. Another $45 million has been allocated for design on Madison Park, she said.

The city is aiming for constructi­on to start on both projects in early 2025, but there’s no timeline for completion or when O’Bryant would be moved to the West Roxbury campus.

Jim Rooney, president and CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, said his organizati­on has long advocated for strategic investment­s in Madison Park that would help students and businesses.

“I’m here to tell you that this investment has the potential to be both lifechangi­ng and game-changing,” Rooney said.

Skipper also announced that Charlestow­n High School will become the city’s first “open enrollment high school,” which will offer early college and dual enrollment to every student, through a partnershi­p with Bunker Hill Community College.

The vision, Skipper said, is that when students graduate, they will have stacked enough college credits to qualify for an associate’s degree.

This is similar to the Year 13 pilot program that was announced earlier this year for Fenway High School and the University of Massachuse­tts Boston, she said, “only this is on a magnitude much larger because this will impact all Charlestow­n High School students.”

Margarita Muñiz Academy, the city’s first dual-language high school, will also expand to include seventhand eighth-grade students.

 ?? CHRIS CHRISTO — BOSTON HERALD ?? Three of the sons of John D. O’Bryant from left, James Richard and John, listen to former Madison Park teacher and coach Dennis Wilson during remarks at the announceme­nt of school constructi­on and improvemen­ts by Mayor Wu.
CHRIS CHRISTO — BOSTON HERALD Three of the sons of John D. O’Bryant from left, James Richard and John, listen to former Madison Park teacher and coach Dennis Wilson during remarks at the announceme­nt of school constructi­on and improvemen­ts by Mayor Wu.

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